News that North Market will open this fall in a federally designated “food desert” has spurred talk of job creation, healthful eating and the importance of an economic “anchor” in the consistently underserved area.
But the overdue arrival of a full-service grocery store in north Minneapolis’ Camden neighborhood offers something more:
How nice that so many of us routinely run into our neighbors at the grocery store or co-op, where we can catch up on kids and aging parents and share dinner plans. How easy it is to take such a perk for granted.
So it was humbling to hear excitement in the voices of residents who shared what North Market will mean to their daily lives beyond expanded food options.
“We haven’t had a grocery store for so long,” said Lana Zappa, the mother of two daughters and the grandmother of four little ones, whom she watches every Monday. “We’ve all had to leave the neighborhood for everything.”
Zappa lives just blocks from where North Market is going up in a shuttered Kowalski’s at 4414 Humboldt Av. N.
“We don’t live in Brooklyn Center, but we have to shop out there,” she said. “But if you go to that Cub, next thing you know, you’re doing other stuff out there. I do think that having this grocery store here will be a real positive.”
Her 31-year-old daughter, Cleo Theis, of nearby Robbinsdale, heartily agreed. “That’s my favorite thing, running into people you know,” she said. It’s something Theis has not been able to do as the mother of two young children, instead making a 10-minute drive to a grocery store in Crystal.
Longtime Northsider and consultant Dave Ellis also is eagerly awaiting the opening.
“Grocery stores are like going to conferences,” he said. “You see who is there and you start to make friendships. It starts to stabilize the neighborhood. People are longing for these relationships.”
North Market is a project of nonprofit Pillsbury United Communities. Space also is being added for an adjoining wellness center, to be operated by North Memorial Health Care.
It has been 10 years since this neighborhood has had such economic, health and food stability. First Supervalu, then Kowalski’s, came and went, leaving residents the limited options of convenience stores — not typically the bastion of fresh and healthful produce — plus Aldi and So Low Grocery Outlet.
A food desert designation means that residents must travel more than a mile to get to a supermarket. Such deserts are far too common in our state.
In 2016, Wilder Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis reported that Minnesota ranks seventh-worst in the country for our share of residents — approximately one-third of the population — with no grocery stores near their homes. Only about 15 percent of Minnesotans get the recommended number of fruits and vegetables daily. One-fourth of the state’s adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
North Minneapolis has been particularly hurt by the lack of easy access to healthful food. The issue was brilliantly spotlighted in December, when “Grow Food,” a YouTube video produced by youths of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Appetite for Change, became a viral sensation. Millions of people viewed the young people rapping about the challenges of making healthful food choices in a community filled with fast-food restaurants.
People on the other end of the age spectrum are equally affected, noted Angerline Goodwin. The 60-year-old is a diabetic who must watch carefully what she eats. Every other week for years, Goodwin, who lives at Hamilton Manor, a low-income senior high-rise next door to the future North Market, rides the bus to the Brooklyn Center Cub Foods.
“I take my traveling suitcase,” she said with a laugh. “And I got everybody else here doing that. I got to have my vegetables, my greens, okra, cabbage, carrots. … Onions are my favorite.”
The arrival of North Market, said Goodwin, who volunteers on her community’s walking and garden committees, “is very important to some of the older people here. They get tired of taking Metro Mobility vans and having to sometimes wait two hours to be picked up.”
Fortunately, North Market is just one of many good changes coming to this deserving area. The Willard-Hay neighborhood is getting its own co-op next year.
In addition, the Twin Cities Mobile Market is set to expand from St. Paul to Minneapolis in about six weeks, said Wilder Foundation spokesman Andy Brown. The transformed bus is stocked with milk, fruit, cheese, bread, meats and more, at affordable prices. North Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside are among the targeted stops, he said.
And the Healthy Corner Stores program, part of the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, is working with all licensed grocery stores, including corner stores, gas stations and pharmacies, to comply with a new regulation to stock healthy foods in 10 categories, from fruits to whole grains to low-fat dairy products. Store owners are being offered support in many ways, from low-interest loans for coolers to partnerships with farmers markets, said spokeswoman Kristen Klingler
In the end, though, North Market will provide life’s simplest pleasures. Goodwin smiles as she imagines a pilgrimage of her neighbors to shop, before “putting their grocery bags on their walkers and walking home.”
Ellis can’t wait to schmooze and collaborate. “I am extremely excited,” he said. “I will patronize it as much as I can to make sure it remains viable.”
Zappa looks forward to “running up to the store,” as she once did. Theis looks forward to biking there and, one day, sending her kids to buy a few things where they will likely run into neighbors who will tell them how beautifully they are growing up.
“It’s been so long,” Theis said, “since it was so easy to go to the grocery store.”